Painless Performance Evaluations – THREE CRITICAL CONCEPTS

Universally, managers and employees dread the annual ritual of performance evaluations.

The opportunity for enhanced communication and feedback is often wasted, misused, or squandered, resulting in a painful experience for everyone. Enlightened organizations are realizing that performance evaluations don’t have to be dreadful. Cutting edge workplaces are adopting three primary perspectives to transform the culture into one where employees look forward to annual performance reviews, leading to enhanced individual and organizational performance.

A painless performance evaluation is defined by these three simple concepts:
1. No surprises!
2. Employee-driven.
3. Future-focused.

No Surprises
The “no surprises” rule means that only previous issues/concerns should be raised in the performance evaluation meeting. It is an opportunity to summarize the previous rating period’s discussions and should be nothing more than a review. Performance evaluations are not the time to solve all of the employee’s performance challenges.

Surprises can’t be avoided unless you and the employee talk regularly about the employee’s performance. Problems and concerns should be discussed when the situation takes place. If the employee has demonstrated success, it should be recognized on the spot. Trust is enhanced when specific feedback is a regular part of the work environment.

When performance conversations are saved up for the year-end meeting, uncomfortable surprises will inevitably arise. The conversation will take on a more productive and positive tone when it is a summary of your previous discussions. This lends itself to the second element of a painless performance evaluation: employee-driven.

A performance evaluation is painless when it is a two-way dialogue. Typical evaluation conversations, where you do all the talking, don’t allow for the employee to have a point of view. In painless performance evaluations, you direct the conversation in a way that is valuable to the employee.

One strategy for engaging employees is to seek their input before the evaluation is prepared. Ask the employee to assess their own performance by posing the following simple questions:

1. What have been your greatest accomplishments this year?
2. What were your biggest challenges this year?
3. What new challenges/goals would you like to pursue in the upcoming year?
4. What can the organization or I do to support you in the future?

These answers allow the employee to remind you of their triumphs, giving you a sense of how they perceive themselves.

Before the performance evaluation meeting, give a copy of the evaluation document to the employee so that he/she can come prepared to discuss its contents. To begin the meeting, ask the employee for their feedback on the document. The employee should be encouraged to talk for at least three to five minutes. After the employee has shared his/her perspective, then you can begin to share your opinions about the employee’s performance.

With this approach the employee will often highlight all of the issues you were planning to discuss anyway. Since the feedback came from the employee, he/she feels an increased sense of ownership for the issues. It opens the discussion to future possibilities, which is the third element of a painless performance evaluation.

A performance evaluation is painless when the conversation is future-oriented and hopeful. Recapping the highlights of an employee’s performance is fine, but the most valuable time is spent talking about the future. Use the evaluation meeting to plan future performance goals, to clarify expectations, and to create a sense of excitement about what lies ahead.

Isn’t it about time we found a more productive and less painful way to tackle the annual performance evaluation? The quality of your customer’s experience is defined by the performance of your individual employees. How you manage performance determines the success of your organization–make it painless!

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